One of the most humane inventions of our civilization is our system of law. Although the pillars of the Republic took root in Pericles’ Athens, it was only a few hundred years later, in Rome, that the idea began to be outlined that if two citizens with equal rights had a relevant conflict of interest for the Republic, an impartial third party should be the one to settle the dispute. It was also inferred that the decision made by the third party should be opposable by the force applied by the one exercising the legitimate monopoly of violence: what today is the State.
In the last decades, some Latin American countries – especially those that managed to escape from the hungry clutches of 21st century socialism- have experienced an exponential growth in their productive capacities and, therefore, in the size of their economies and in their ability to generate wealth. The region is obviously far from having reached its maximum potential, but it cannot be denied that countries such as Peru, Colombia, Chile, and Uruguay have experienced strong and sustained economic growth. This growth hasn’t been properly accompanied by others.
Institutionally, Latin America continues to have feudal plateaus that contrast with the tremendous friction with how much our economy has grown. I could dedicate an article to each of the Republican institutions that have not evolved at the same pace as the economy; however, there is one that particularly attracts the attention of many – a group in which I am of course included – and that is the justice system. To borrow from Gramsci’s basics, the left, in some countries, has not managed to come to power through the ballot box. Thus, it has penetrated power through its tutelary institutions.
I wish to highlight specifically the cases of Colombia and Peru. Both countries have had, for decades, a democratic left that is politically very weakened in the eyes of the majority, since both nations have faced for decades the terrorist scourge of Sendero Luminoso and MRTA (in the case of Peru) and of the FARC and ELN (in the case of Colombia). I have used the verb “confronted” in the past tense with optimism that may not be realistic: terrorist remnants continue to threaten the internal security of the brother nations of Peru and Colombia. There is an almost umbilical union there.
Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe – perhaps one of the best presidents the region has ever had- is a uterine enemy of the left: He managed – with the support of other presidents- to stop the expansion of Chavismo and, at the same time, he put the FARC between a rock and a hard place so that later, and against the will of the Colombian people, his former Defense Minister and next president -Juan Manuel Santos-, would grant a peace treaty that, for many, meant giving up in a fight against a herd of murderers and inhumane drug traffickers.
The problem that I intend to shed light on institutionally -and that the figure of President Uribe personifies with solvency- is that of the politicization of justice. Although I pointed out at the beginning that it was during the heyday of Republican Rome that the law was born, a series of legal principles have been added over time to the systems that today we understand as the rule of law. One of them-perhaps one of the most important-is the presumption of innocence. This one in particular has been pulverized by politicized justice systems that have done a lot of damage.
The case with which President Uribe’s prosecution is a complex one. Some time ago I wrote a summary that you can read here. However, it is not the details with which I want to finish drawing attention, but the rotting of the essential values of a process. And as I have already said, the case of President Uribe is perhaps the example par excellence, but not the only one: in present-day South America, a declaration is sufficient for the request (and approval) of precautionary measures against the freedom of the accused). Moreover, the burden of proof has been reversed: one has to prove one’s innocence.
The latter is an attack not only on the Law but on Aristotelian logic itself: it is impossible to prove what has not happened. Well, under the yoke of that left that, camouflaged, has snuck into the judicial systems of several countries, is that politicians -from the entire ideological spectrum- have been deprived of their freedom until they manage to prove their innocence. Today this practice may seem to us to be a mere exercise that is increasingly common; however, if we do not put a stop to it, the generations to come will pay the very high price of having traded the republican essence for the hollow prize of mere revenge.